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on Jul 20, 2018 in Wildlife Photography

Move Your Photography Forward

Elegant Trogon
captured by D5 / 800mm

One of the biggest challenges in photography is measuring the success of our photographs both technically and most importantly, aesthetically. What I mean by that is, the vast majority of what we do there is no scale, an accepted public measure that we can quickly, easily and accurately measure the quality of our success. It’s all rather subjective. Those who live in the industry have such a scale but in many ways, this is a secret measure that’s summed up very simply in a check paying one for their efforts. But even in the days of film with it ridgedality that was relatively cut and dry this measure of success, helping a new photographer understanding what was sharp while looking through a loop on a light table was a helluva challenge. I by no means have any intent to suggest or force my scale of quality on anyone but rather, simply pass along just two things that my forty years of working with photobuyers has instilled in me that I personally attribute to my still making a living with my images.

American Redstart
D500 / 800mm

Back in the day of steam-powered cameras, we shot on this thing called film … ground up cow hooves with this thin layer of chemicals that got really excited when light struck it just right. In my case, it was 35mm in size being finally presented to the photobuyer encased in this circle of cardboard. There was just enough room on this cardboard to stamp your copyright and address. And you’d bundled up your precious gems up 20 to a page and sent them off with your prayers to the photo buyer hoping in return to get a nice check. You would use gloves and keemacs in prepping your slides, stamping them with care so the presentation was a perfect as you could make it. The last thing you would do would put silver tape on the cardboard mounts to suggest that the image should be cropped, it was dependent on you and assumed by the photobuyer that what they say within that cardboard frame was the complete visual story as you wanted to tell it. Not that at times your photo might not have been cropped in production to fit a cover or a layout. But you’re delivering a product to a client, what they saw in that cardboard frame was the final photo. At the same time what was contained within that cardboard frame was exposed to have the information needed in the entire range of the story correctly. This could only happen when you did it when you went click in the camera. There was no way of recovery after that fact.

Replacing today the finality of slide film and the words of wisdom of the photobuyer is digital and the internet. Where before you HAD to know when you went click you had the picture has been replaced often with learning how you can recover it in post. Where you have the professional helping you learn if your photograph is telling a story are simply Likes. Likes from others often is a befuddlement as to a measure of success or not. There are no true words of advice here, there is no technical help or words of wisdom other then to suggest that our measure of success must be higher if we are to move photography as a whole to a higher plane. A plane were rather than tearing down one’s photo, we use measures as a place to help each other improve where the technical is secondary and not a primary tool to measure with. It’s only then that photography can truly measure up to its true calling, telling the stories of this marvelous world we are all so fortunate to witness with other less fortunate. To enlighten all to a better plane. I would simply like to see us moving the quality slider moved forward!

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